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The European Union (EU) has a consumer market in excess of 500 million people with an increasing demand for specialty-prepared and pre-packaged convenience goods. The EU is an international organization comprised of 27 European member countries. The EU began as a regional economic agreement in the early 1950's and has evolved into a supranational organization encompassing the greater part of Europe today. General country information including population, currency and languages for each member country follow:
Country General Country Information National PublicAdministration
The EU was formally created in November 1993 with the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. The treaty was designed to enhance both political and economic integration in Europe. This was done by creating a single currency (Euro €), a unified foreign and security policy, common citizenship rights, and cooperation in the areas of immigration and judicial affairs.
The main decision-making body within the European Community is the Council of the European Union, consisting of ministerial representatives from all of the member nations. The composition of this council changes frequently as countries send different representatives depending on the issue being debated. All European legislation requires the approval of this council. Under the rules of the newly-adopted Lisbon Treaty, signed to enhance the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improve the coherency of its actions, the EU elected its first permanent European Council President.
The EU continues to advance and develop its internal market. Both the capital market reforms and the establishment of the Euro as the single currency have assisted the EU in this goal. The creation of a single market is a great achievement for the EU. This market aims to reduce barriers and simplify existing rules, enabling everyone in the EU to make the most of the opportunities that arise from having direct access to 27 countries and a consumer market in excess of 500 million people.
The EU contains five of the 10 largest economies in the world (Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom (UK), Spain), and approximately 30% of the world's GDP. However, with the five largest economies of the EU accounting for close to 75% of the total GDP, there are substantial economic differences that exist between individual member states.
The EU has gradually expanded to become the world’s largest multi-nation trading bloc. Since January 1, 2007, the EU comprises 27 member states with approximately 500 million consumers. The EU member states are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Iceland, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey are candidates to join the EU.
With the EU constituting approximately 7% of the world's population, comprising 27 member nations and a wide range of ethnicities and consumer tastes, it is evidently one of the most diverse markets. The consumption of member nations differs due to a variety of varying circumstances. However, as the EU strives for a single market economy and a basic standard of living between citizens of all member nations, consumption patterns across EU member states appear to be converging. Factors contributing to this convergence include stabilizing household incomes, demographic changes, and trends toward nutritional foods.
From the perspective of traditional household consumption, the EU undoubtedly leads amongst developed nations. The majority of populations live in, or near, urban centres and almost all people are exposed daily to traditional channels of consumption. As such, the average "consumer" spans beyond the immediate urban areas and into rural communities. In many of the EU 27 countries, the quality of living allows people the comfort of accessing traditional channels of consumption wherever they are, representing a potentially large market for Caribbean specialty food manufacturers. Characteristics of the market could be described as having a demanding and concentrated retail sector, a high level and sophisticated food service sector and a highly food safety conscious market.